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Hollywood: ‘It Kind of Feels Like Rome Is Burning’

“It kind of feels like Rome is burning,” says one Hollywood writer-director in a New York Times look at the continuing fallout from the detonation of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. (Here I pause to recall the name of the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan.) I’ve argued before that this Hollywood scandal is different because Hollywood is actually troubled, indeed deeply shaken, by what is happening. As in most moments of crisis, for some there is opportunity. Angela Robinson, author of the quotation above, says she doesn’t know when the fire will stop burning, adding, “I don’t know if I want it to stop.” At an event for women in the entertainment industry, some audience members raised a fist in solidarity. One shouted, “Topple the patriarchy!” Other remarks from the piece: “There’s no going back.” “These last couple of weeks have unmoored the industry.” This is revolutionary talk.

What is the desired outcome of the revolution? More opportunities for women. Hollywood is now and always has been run primarily by men. Though there are many female executives, there aren’t a lot of prominent female directors and screenwriters, especially in the movie industry (there are more on the TV side). Yet if Harvey Weinstein has treated women horribly, does that make a given screenplay more likely to be a hit because it has a woman’s name on it? Will Hollywood put aside commercial considerations in the interest of balancing the gender scales? Robinson has a movie out: Professor Marston & the Wonder Women. She wrote and directed it, and it was produced and released by Megan Ellison through her Annapurna Pictures. It’s exactly the kind of earnest, overtly feminist, didactic film Hollywood women are clamoring to make. It’s a low-budget affair. Yet it stands to lose millions, having earned only $1.5 million at the box office. Hollywood may need more films like Wonder Woman, but it isn’t obvious that it wants to make more films like Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

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